FARNBOROUGH, England — For years, Northrop Grumman has declined to buy chalet space at the Farnborough or Paris air shows, saying the return isn’t worth the investment. Employees may be there, talking with customers and partners, but giant signs advertising the company are nowhere to be seen.

So, then, why were they at Farnborough this week?

It was a question attendees at the show were asking over drinks, with some speculating Northrop is rolling back its stance about the big European annual shows. But the truth is more one of convenience than anything.

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"Northrop Grumman's presence at the 2018 Farnborough International Air Show is a result of the previously-planned participation by Orbital ATK, prior to the merger with Northrop Grumman,” Northrop spokesman Tim Paynter told Defense News in a statement.

Essentially, Orbital ATK had already put down the deposit on space at Farnborough before the $7.8 billion acquisition by Northrop came through. And Northrop, being a cost-conscious company, decided it didn’t make sense to throw away the spot, instead using it as a home base for employees at the show.

And it sounds more likely to be a one-off than a major change in how the world’s fifth-largest defense company handles these events.

Asked if people should expect to see Northrop in Paris next year, Paynter said the company “continually assesses international air shows and events, with affordability in mind. The company remains committed to its international customers and partners worldwide as evidence by myriad other activities in the communities where we live and work."

Whether that will change under new CEO Kathy Warden, scheduled to take over the firm in 2019, remains to be seen.

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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